October 20, 2022: Nyrstar has shut down its Port Pirie lead smelter in South Australia as part of a planned A$45 million ($28 million) works programme, BESB has learned.
A Nyrstar spokesperson told BESB on October 18 that the 55-day shutdown started around two weeks ago and was required to complete capital works and maintenance projects — focused on rebricking the hearth of the top submerged lance furnace, as well as major capital works in the blast furnace, acid plant and across the site.
“These planned capital works and maintenance works are aimed at reducing plant emissions and increasing operational production and stability,” the spokesperson said.
More than 500 additional contractors will be on site during the 55-day period and many local businesses are supporting the works, the spokesperson said.
Plans for the capital and works programme were reported by Batteries International in November 2021, following a series of unplanned outages at the smelter in June 2019, which caused lead prices to soar by about $250 per tonne.
In June 2020, Port Pirie signed a new licence agreement with Australia’s Environment Protection Authority to cap emissions by 20% as well as submit a comprehensive lead monitoring plan.
The Port Pirie smelter has been in continuous operation for more than 130 years on the Port Pirie river, 230km north of Adelaide.
The plant is one of the world’s largest multi-metal smelters, producing lead, silver and by-products such as sulphuric acid.
Meanwhile, Nyrstar has not yet received regulatory approvals to complete its acquisition of the Stolberg lead production plant in Germany, the spokesperson said.
“We plan to restart the facility after all closing conditions and receipt of regulatory approvals to transfer the assets have been obtained and when the plant is technically ready.”
Nyrstar’s parent company, the Trafigura Group, said on July 6 it had entered into a binding agreement to acquire Ecobat Resources Stolberg, which owns the Stolberg multi-metals processing plant.
Separately, BESB reported on September 29 that Ecobat was going ahead with the suspension of lead production at its plants in Italy effective October 1 in the wake of “extreme energy prices and other excessively burdensome costs” in the country.
Photo: Port Pirie / Nyrstar